Virginia M. Kline Award Winner – Swamplovers

Restoring and Preserving the Land for Future Generations

In 1986, a group of men including Gerry Goth and Lee Swanson (pictured) from the Cross Plains area purchased land for hunting and for teaching youth about hunting. They thought they knew what they wanted from the land, but the process of getting to know the land changed the way each of them viewed their relationship to it.

After they began clearing brush, they found dormant native wildflowers and made a commitment to restoring the land’s former ecosystems, which included prairie, oak savanna, oak openings, wetlands and wet prairies.

In 1987 they formed Swamplovers Foundation, and restoration efforts have continued and expanded since that time. Currently, they have 460 acres undergoing restoration and research with amazing biodiversity — more than 1,269 species have been documented including at least 98 that are extremely rare or of conservation priority. Through the removal of dense brush, they uncovered a population of state-threatened pale purple coneflowers.

Community participation has been essential. They have involved the Dane County Parks Department, local scout troops, UW-Madison entomology students, landowners, elementary school students, garden groups, UW-Platteville dendrology students, and UW-Whitewater natural sciences students. Contributing nonprofit organizations include Madison Audubon Society, interns from the Ice Age Trail Alliance and Fayville Grove Sanctuary, Pheasants Forever, Operation Fresh Start crews, and volunteers from the Cross Plains Lions Club, The Prairie Enthusiasts and the Wisconsin Wetlands Association.

The organizers have received a diversity of funds for their work from the Conservation Reserve Program, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources grants, as well as a grant through the Dane County Environmental Council Community Partners program. They have also used private funding through the Swamplovers Foundation and from many other private donors.

Swamplovers has received recognition from various sources, including a Comeback Champ Award from the Wisconsin DNR, the Field and Stream Conservation Hero Award and a Pheasants Forever Conservation Award.

To quote Mike Foy, Wisconsin DNR Wildlife Biologist, in his letter of support for this nomination: “From the beginning, the Swamplovers welcomed and engaged the community in their projects, providing restoration and outdoor skills workshops, field training, research, education and recreational opportunities.

“Then they went on to ensure that future generations would benefit from their efforts, working with Dane County, the Wisconsin Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation, and the National Parks Service to develop an Ice Age Trail segment and ultimately protect the property forever for public use and enjoyment.”